'A little neglect may breed great mischief, ...

For want of a nail, the shoe was lost,
For want of a shoe, the horse was lost and
For want of a horse the rider was lost.'

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790)


On the afternoon of 1 December 1942 the corvette, HMAS Armidale, was attacked by Japanese aircraft off the east coast of Timor. Hit by two torpedoes, Armidale was reputed to have sunk in just four minutes and of the 146 personnel on board, 100 were reported to have eventually perished.

The operation Armidale was engaged in was under the overall control of Commodore Cuthbert J. Pope, RAN, Naval Officer in Charge (NOIC), Darwin, stationed at the wireless-telegraphy (W/T) shorebase, HMAS Coonawarra. Armidale, along with another corvette, HMAS Castlemaine, and the Northern Territory patrol vessel, HMAS Kuru, had been tasked to land units of the Royal Netherlands East Indies Army (Koninklijk Nederlands Indisch Leger; KNIL) personnel at Betano and return to Darwin with Portuguese civilians. But while operating alone, Armidale had been overwhelmed by a force of torpedo-bombers, dive-bombers and fighters. Those who survived the attack subsequently found varying degrees of refuge in a motor boat, a whaler, a Carley float, and a makeshift raft. Men in the motor boat and whaler were rescued some days later, tragically RAN personnel on the raft and KNIL Army personnel in the Carley float were not saved.

My book on naval heroism in the Darwin air raid was published in 2000 and in it I had opined whether 'the (Japanese) decision not to use torpedo bombers and the fact that neither they nor dive bombers were used in any further raids (almost 50) on Darwin throughout 1942, may have been instrumental in lulling military authorities in Darwin into the belief, or assumption, that RAN ships engaged on operations between Darwin and Timor would, if detected, be only subjected to high level bombing attacks. If indeed this false sense of security did develop amongst the military authorities, it was to be rudely shattered when the Japanese attacked and sank the corvette, HMAS Armidale, using both torpedo bombers and dive bombers on 1 December 1942.'

I therefore formed the opinion that to include a chapter on the loss of the Armidale in my book would be both relevant and worthwhile.

At that stage, however, my research had been more concerned with establishing the veracity of the positions and movements of the three ships on I December, in particular how, based on her known performance, only one of Kuru's four reported positions appeared to make any sense.

These positions and movements extracted from Pope's report to the Australian Commonwealth Naval Board (ACNB) of 3 December 1942, could only have caused further confusion in the minds of military analysts when a figure, purporting to be a plot of the three ships' movements on 1 December 1942 appeared in the official history.

Looking back, a more assertive approach on my part to the errors contained in this latter figure would have seen both figures included in my book. This would at least have enabled interested readers to draw their own conclusions vis-a-vis what was contained in the official history figure and what could be readily derived from Pope's initial report data.

At that stage, I was also aware from my albeit-limited access to a MP151/1 National Archives file, that there had been some post-war correspondence between a Merchant Navy captain, Gilbert Paterson, and the ACNB. The father of Ordinary Seaman Donald Paterson, one of Armidale's crew whose date of death was listed as 8 December 1942, Paterson had assumed the role as spokesperson for the Armidale next-of-kin. (The purpose of my visit to the Melbourne branch of the National Archives had been to research other military history topics of interest. Unfortunately, this had meant there was insufficient opportunity for me to thoroughly investigate the contents of this file.)

Nonetheless, by 2003 I felt some of my earlier concerns had been allayed when I submitted an article on my Armidale research to the Australian Defence Force Journal (ADFJ), and this time my own figure and that of the officiai history were able to be compared. The article was accepted and published in the May-June 2003 ADFJ (see below), but it was not until 2011-2012 that a major breakthrough occurred. The Defence Honours and Awards Appeal Tribunal were assessing whether or not Ordinary Seaman, 'Teddy' Sheean (amongst others) merited receiving the award of the Victoria Cross for Australia. Only then did I discover that the Tribunal had requested the particular MP151/1 file be made available in a digitised format and as, a consequence, was now to be found online.




Valour and innocence
Have latterly gone hence
To certain death,
By certain shame attended.

Rudyard Kipling (1865 -1936)1

HMAS Armidale---------------------------------------------------------------------------------HMAS Kuru


On 1 December 1942, the corvette, HMAS Armidale, [CO: LCDR D.H. Richards, RANR(S)] was sunk off the south coast of (then) Portuguese Timor while engaged in an operation to land Netherlands East Indies (NEI) army personnel at Betano. Attacked by an overwhelming force of torpedo bombers, dive bombers and fighters, Armidale had sunk within minutes, with an eventual loss of 100 lives.

Those fortunate enough to survive the attack subsequently found varying degrees of refuge in a motor boat, a whaler, a Carley float, and a makeshift raft. Men in the motor boat and whaler were rescued some days later, tragically RAN personnel on the raft and NEI Army personnel in the Carley float were not saved. A Board of Inquiry convened immediately following Armidale's loss deemed the operation to have been a 'justifiable war risk' but obvious flaws in the planning of the operation and subsequent search-and-rescue efforts drew little, if any, criticism.

National Archives hold records of W/T signals sent between NOIC, Darwin, [CDRE C. J. Pope, RAN], and Armidale and the other two ships involved in the operation, HMAS Castlemaine [CO: LCDR P.J. Sullivan, RANR(S)] and the NT patrol vessel, HMAS Kuru, [CO: LEUT J. A. Grant, RANVR]. A recent examination of these records suggests there was an alarming and woeful lack of attention to detail in the planning of this operation - codenamed Operation Hamburger - shortcomings that were ultimately responsible for much of the heavy loss of life.

These records show:

1. Aircraft types (ie whether level, dive or torpedo bombers) were never specified in any of the attacks;

2. Kuru's 'enemy report' procedures differed from those of Castlemaine and Armidale;

3. A failure to anticipate or adequately prepare for operational contingencies.

Operation Hamburger began with Kuru sailing independently from Darwin on 28 November. With her maximum speed about half that of the corvettes, she had had left Darwin a day ahead of the corvettes. The plan called for Kuru to rendezvous with the two corvettes at Betano during the evening of 30 November/1 December. However, en route to Betano, the two corvettes had encountered air attacks and, forced to deviate from their intended course, missed their rendezvous with Kuru by about two hours.

Kuru picked up about 70 Portuguese civilians for the return journey to Darwin and followed a pre-arranged course away from Betano Bay, which Armidale and Castlemaine later took. Overhauling Kuru shortly after dawn on 1 December, these civilians were transferred to Castlemaine.

Shortly after, Armidale and Kuruwere ordered to return to Betano to disembark the NEI soldiers. There is some dispute about the course Kuru actually set, but Armidale and Castlemaine initially headed away from Timor and parted company at 1100. Castlemaine headed for Darwin, while Armidale turned back toward the Timor coast - in broad daylight and steering towards an enemy, obviously aware of her presence.

At 1254 Armidale reported she was under attack from 'enemy aircraft', at 1430 under attack from 'nine enemy aircraft', and half an hour later 'nine bombers, four fighters'. In this last attack, Armidale was hit by two out of three torpedoes and quickly sank. One torpedo struck the radio room, giving her W/T operators no chance to inform naval HQ in Darwin of her crew being about to abandon ship. Shortly before Armidale was attacked, Kuru had also been attacked, the severity of this attack convincing Grant he had no option but to return to Darwin.

On Armidale many lives were lost, principally NEI soldiers billeted close to where the other torpedo had struck and men who were machine-gunned in the water by Zero fighters.


It was here, after the 'abandon ship' order had been given, that O/S Teddy Sheean, the 18-year old Tasmanian, had elected to fight back rather than take his chances with those in the water. Strapping himself into his Oerlikon gun harness, he had single-handedly defended his shipmates and was responsible for shooting down at least one aircraft. In unhestitatingly sacrificing his own life, he had shown the sort of selfess and inspirational heroism which many believe should have seen him awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross, not the posthumous Mention in Despatches his gallantry was finally accorded.

Ordinary Seaman Teddy Sheean

Over the years, various accounts of Armidale's action and its tragic aftermath have been published, the most graphic and moving of these being Frank Walker's "HMAS Armidale - the Ship that had to Die", (1990). Walker recounted many of the ordeals faced by motor boat and whaler survivors alike; significantly he also included as Appendices, records of W/T signals transmitted during the operation and transcripts of the 1942 Board of Inquiry.

These records show that:

1. All 'enemy reports' transmitted by Armidale, Castlemaine and Kuru, classified threats as either 'bombers', 'fighters' or 'enemy aircraft'. Based on height information Pope received in the earliest attacks, he correctly assumed these were level-bombing attacks. Armidale's reports during the 1 December attacks specified neither aircraft height nor type - a fatal oversight as later events were to prove.

2. When under attack, all three ships broke 'radio silence' to transmit 'enemy reports', both corvettes signalling 'attack ceased' to indicate they had come through safely. Inexplicably, Kuru never sent this signal, (but as the naval officer in charge of the operation, it was Pope's overall responsibility to have reminded Kuru to do so. He hadn't.) [December 2012] Had Kuru done so, Armidale would have stood out as the only ship not to close an 'enemy report' in this fashion - an omission Pope should not have ignored. Instead, his over-optimistic belief that Armidale had come through unscathed was to cost survivors dearly.

3. There were major errors in Kuru's reported positions for 1 December. Based on Kuru's known maximum speed of 8-10 knots, she was probably within 15nm of Armidale when she sank - far closer than the '30 to 40 miles' quoted by the Naval Board in postwar correspondence to the father of one of the men lost on the raft. The timing and the strength of the attack on Kuru at 1440/1445 (Grant reported 'nine others [presumably bombers - author's note] arrived with five two-seater fighters')2 makes it highly likely she was attacked by the same aircraft that sank Armidale.

4. Kuru's reported course of 135deg (or south-east) in the afternoon/early evening of 1 December is at odds with that shown in Volume II of Hermon Gill's Official History, (1967), figure 1.3 A figure showing respective courses for the three ships, has Kuru to the south of Armidale in the morning and early afternoon of 1 December; whereas she was to her north. After Armidale sank, Kuru is shown as steering in an easterly direction for several hours. Figure 2, based on actual W/T records, is a reconstruction of ship positions at given times.4 Also shown are point-to-point average speeds - some of which were clearly beyond Kuru's capacity to achieve. Note, figures 1 and 2 are to be found on page 41 of the May/ June 2003 Australian Defence Force Journal.

5. Walker was particularly scathing of Pope's signal to Armidale and Kuru, issued one and a half hours after Armidale had sunk.


In repeating his earlier order for these two ships to return to Betano, Pope had signalled 'Air attack is to be accepted as ordinary routine secondary warfare'.

This, in hindsight, was clearly a most embarrassing and damaging signal, but in Pope's defence, he was clearly labouring under the impression that all reported attacks were by high level bombers, an impression further sustained by the number of bombers (nine) actually signalled by Sullivan, Richards. and Grant at one time or the other.

The Japanese tactic of bombers flying level, and in arrowhead formations of either nine or five aircraft, had been observed in a number of past raids: the 16 February, 1942 attack on the US/Australian convoy which, bound for Koepang, had been forced to return to Darwin; the initial strike on Darwin of 19 February, 1942 and attacks on the cruiser, HMAS Hobart, where, in the days following the fall of Singapore, she was reportedly missed by a total of 260 bombs. Indeed, the attack Castlemaine had reported the previous day as, 'nine aircraft, 5000 feet', matched precisely that which had been observed many times before.

In sending his signal, Pope clearly believed the only danger his ships faced was a continuation of level-bombing attacks which, based on past experience, had generally proved survivable. Added to this, in the latter half of 1942, naval command in Darwin had become far too complacent over the air threat corvettes and small ships might face on missions to Timor. Not since the first air raid on Darwin of 19 February 1942 had the Japanese resorted to dive bombers in attacks on Darwin (significantly, torpedo bombers were not used in the first raid either), and apart from the HMAS Voyager incident, air attacks appear to have been conspicuously absent in Timor operations. The change in Japanese tactics and weapons for the final attack on Armidale had clearly brought all such thinking undone.

Later, on 14 December, when Pope presented his report to the Naval Board in Melbourne detailing events surrounding the loss of Armidale and its aftermath, he had noted:

However, while Richards must take some responsibility for not informing Pope that 'dive bombers' were used in the 1254 attack on Armidale, the timing of Pope's 'secondary warfare' signal clearly indicated it had completely escaped his notice that Armidale had not signalled 'attack ceased' after the final attack.

'I naturally hoped that these small, manoeuvrable and (as against low level attacks below Oerlikon range) fairly well-armed vessels would escape serious damage. Unfortunately this was not the case and Armidale was finally sunk by a heavy and well-coordinated attack which included torpedo bombers, a new factor in these waters (author's emphasis), without which the ships would probably have escaped serious damage. This is also the view of the CO Armidale, expressed to me verbally.'5

At 1900 on 2 December, Pope issued instructions for Armidale to break radio silence at 0230 on 3 December - almost a day and a half after she had slipped below the waters of the Timor Sea! Only on that morning did the dreadful realisation finally sheet home that Armidale was lost, Pope reporting to the Naval Board that Darwin-based RAAF Lockheed Hudson bombers of No. 2 and 13 Squadron had already begun a search for survivors.

The motor boat was first to be sighted and 17 men from Armidale plus three NEI soldiers were picked-up by the corvette, HMAS Kalgoorlie. at 2300 on 6 December. Arising from this rescue a clearer, but still incomplete picture emerged of the perilous state of the other survivors. At 1050 on 7 December, Pope sent a signal to the Naval Board and Commander South West Pacific requesting an RAAF Catalina flying boat from No. 11 Squadron join the search. At 1507 news was received of three RAAF Hudsons having located about 40 personnel marooned on a raft almost 29nm from where Armidale was presumed to have sunk.

Why Pope allowed the search to go into its fifth day before requesting the Catalina - and then only after the first group of survivors had been found and rescued - defies explanation. In terms of search-and-rescue, the Catalina was far superior to the Hudson. With endurance about double that of the Hudson, a top speed of 190mph - approximately 30mph lower than the Hudson's cruising speed - and an ability to loiter at 120mph for long periods while searching, the Catalina was ideal for such a role. And, as an added bonus, if sea-state conditions allowed, it could alight on the sea to complete a rescue. But with the squadron stationed at Cairns - over 2000km from where Armidale had sunk - this meant that a Catalina could not go 'on task' until the morning of 8 December - almost a week after Armidale had sunk.


On its first flight, the Catalina made the second sighting of the (by now) estimated 18 Armidale personnel on the raft (pictured), but sea-state conditions prevented any rescue.

The Catalina also located 29 men in the whaler who were later picked up, again by Kalgoorlie. The men on the raft were never sighted again

The subsequent Board of Inquiry failed to address two issues responsible for the unnecessary loss of life on the raft: delays due to the misinterpretation of Armidale's 'radio silence' and the piecemeal nature of the search operation.

Soon after the war, the father of one of those who had perished on the raft requested a fresh Board of Inquiry investigate these and other issues. His concerns - and those of 27 bereaved families - were taken up by his Federal MP, Kim Beazley, the father of the previous Leader of the Opposition. The Naval Board refused this request.

The Naval Board's obvious reluctance to re-open the Armidale issue at this time may be gauged from some April 1946 correspondence on behalf of five parents to the Minister for the Navy, A. S. Drakeford:

'No department may understand the anguish of bereaved parents, but we have found that the same casualness and indifference that withheld the search for eight days is being extended to us in the Department of the Navy's attitude in winding up the affairs of our sons

and the ignoring of our individual correspondence, thereby assuming the very despotism our sons were called upon to fight and adding to our anguish, a bitterness that neither time nor circumstances can eradicate.'6

On 31 October 1946, Drakeford, acting on advice received from the Naval Board, responded to Beazley's letter. With respect to the issue of 'radio silence', he wrote:

'Had Armidale survived the air attack and been in the process of evading a possible impending one, there would have been an understandable reluctance on Armidale's part to break wireless silence and thus give away her position. The fact that Armidale's wireless was not again heard, was by no means evidence that the ship had been sunk'.7

As noted earlier, the first torpedo to hit Armidale had smashed into the radio office, closing-off any chance of her communicating with the outside world. With Armidale's position obviously known to the enemy, even had she survived and radioed Darwin 10 minutes after the raid had finished (say), little of substance would have been given away. The consequences of Armidale failing to signal 'attack ceased' was not addressed.

The Naval Board's explanation for the excessive delays in beginning the search-and-rescue operation was scarcely any more convincing:

'On 1st, 2nd and 3rd December, aircraft specially detailed to search for HMAS Armidale or her survivors were despatched. On 4th December, though several searches were carried out over the Timor Sea, local bad weather restricted air activity to about one third of normal.

More searches continued as detailed in a previous letter to you, until the evening of the 13th, the only interruption to these being by reason of the weather. There is no justification whatever for accusing NOIC Darwin of disinterest or lethargy.'8


A more misleading, disingenuous reply from a political head can scarcely be imagined. Since Armidale was still assumed afloat on 1 and 2 December, all operations conducted by Beaufighters on these days would surely have been flown in a 'support' capacity. In no way could they be described as 'search' operations 'for HMAS Armidale or her survivors'.

Had a fresh Board of Inquiry been convened, there were other issues, apart from 'radio silence' and 'search delays' which the Naval Board would have been hard-pressed to explain. For example:

1. Why, once it was known Castlemaine and Armidale had been detected and attacked on 30 November and might therefore be at some risk, was not a Catalina placed on 'standby' at Cairns or, even as a temporary measure, at Darwin?

2. The Naval Board claimed Kuru was unaware of Armidale being sunk, a claim substantiated in recent private correspondence between the author and the W/T operator on Kuru. He wrote that for incoming messages a listening watch was kept on just one frequency (naval HQ in Darwin) while outgoing transmissions were made on another. Incredibly, Kuru was not aware of enemy reports transmitted by either Armidale or Castlemaine.

3. How much could:

a. Armidale's failure to classify the 1254 attack as by 'dive bombers', and

b. Kuru's failure to signal 'attack ceased'in the hours following, be attributed to inadequacies in the planning of the operation? (Had Pope known Armidale was being subjected to dive bomber attack - a far greater threat than that posed by level bombers - this might well have led him to call off the operation. He had acted so a few hours later when informed by the RAAF of the presence of two Japanese cruisers off the south coast of Timor.

Calling off the operation might not have prevented Armidale from being sunk two hours later, but her failure to send an 'attack ceased' signal should have been capable of only one interpretation - all the more so had Kuru's 'enemy reports' conformed with those of the other two ships during the critical hours of 1 December.)

Even so, the absolute tragedy is that, notwithstanding delays in requesting the Catalina, the rescue of the remaining survivors on the raft must have seemed close at hand on the afternoon of 8 December. That these desperately unlucky men were not rescued, that fate would play one last, cruel hand, dashing all hopes of safety when seemingly so close, makes the loss of the Armidale possibly the most painful and bitter episode in the history of the RAN.

1. Rudyard Kipling, The Two Cousins
2. Frank Walker, HMAS Armidale - the Ship that had to Die, Kingfisher Press 1990, p.162
3. G. Hermon Gill, Royal Australian Navy - 1942-45 Australian war Memorial, 1968. p.212,
4. John Bradford, In the Highest Traditions - RAN Heroism Darwin 19 February 1942, p.145
5. ibid., p.106
6. Alan Powell, The Shadow's Edge, Melbourne University Press, 1988, p.128
7. National Archives Series No. MP151/1, Item No. 429/201/943
8. ibid.


Over the years since the above article was first published in the ADFJ, it's been possible to update and amend earlier material obtained from archival sources. In addition, material from new sources such as Trove has come to light.

Tactical considerations governing the covert operaton in which Castlemaine, Armidale and Kuru were engaged meant that were they to come under attack, radio silence could be broken to report this fact. But once having survived an attack, they were expected to signal 'attack ceased' before reverting back to radio silence. This signal was an essential element of radio silence protocol, its primary function, of course, being to keep the OiC of the operation up-to-date with what was going on.

Kuru had survived four air attacks at much the same time as Armidale was being attacked but at no stage had signalled 'attack ceased'. Pope had failed to correct Kuru's oversight after the first attack, but worse was to follow; he had failed to remind or order her CO to do so prior to or after subsequent attacks.

Pope had informed the ACNB of Armidale's presumed loss in his initial report of 3 December 1942 but, whether by accident or design, his failure to bring Kuru into line was smoothed over by the simple expedient of omitting all references to earlier 'attack ceased' signals transmitted by Castlemaine and Armidale. An already unsatisfactory situation unravelled still further when, at the three-man Board of Inquiry held in Darwin on 8 December 1942, the historical narrative of what had occurred - the signals log for this operation, in which there were clearly significant omissions - appears not to have been tendered as evidence.

As noted in the Preamble, in April 1946 a Merchant Navy captain, Gilbert Paterson, had petitioned the ACNB to hold an Inquiry into all the circumstances surrounding Armidale's loss. Paterson's son was reported to have survived the sinking, so, conceivably, he could have been amongst those of Armidale's crew who were on the raft whens it was spotted by the RAAF Catalina on 8 December. Yet, despite Paterson having the support of his local federal Member of Parliament, Kim Beazley snr., the petition, signed by 27 next-of-kin, failed to gain any traction with the ACNB.

In responding to Paterson's request, the ACNB's Naval Secretary, Arthur Nankervis, withheld crucial information from the next-of-kin, there being no mention, let alone explanation of:

a. Why it had taken 36 hours for Pope to realise Armidale had very probably been lost;

b. How shortcomings in following correct radio silence procedures had ultimately produced this excessive delay.

Pope had mistakenly assumed that the sole threat to his ships was the high-level bomber, a severity of threat he presumed Armidale was capable enough of countering. Nonetheless, having not received the all-important 'attack ceased' signal from Armidale, he should have become very concerned from 1545 onwards that her safety could well have been compromised. And had Kuru been following accepted radio-silence protocol, any concerns he might have held about how Armidale was faring ought to have become that more sharply defined.

The failure to appreciate Armidale had not signalled 'attack ceased' within an hour or so (say) of her having reported coming under attack was to have terrible consequences for many of her personnel, whose chances of being rescued could only have been enhanced had search operations been able to begin that much sooner. Amongst the personnel were the 20 or so Dutch/Indonesian soldiers in a Carley float and a similat number of Armidale sailors on the makeshift raft.

Whether or not the ACNB were awake to the significance of Pope's omissions in relation to the non-inclusion of the 'attack ceased' signals in his report, they chose not to correct or make any comment on them. Their decision in 1946 to pass-up the opportunity of conducting a further Board of Inquiry into Armidale's loss, effectively denied any prospect of the next-of-kin of Australian sailors and Dutch and Indonesian army personnel, ever receiving any explanation as to what, or who, was responsible for causing this disaster.

(In relation to the Dutch and Indonesian army personnel who were due to be disembarked on Timor, our National Archive files record there were only two Dutch officers amongst the 60 Netherlands East Indies Army personnel who lost their lives. However, records recently obtained from the Netherlands equivalent of our Commonwealth War Graves Commission, now show 13 Dutch national/Dutch colonial officers and men were amongst those who lost their lives. No explanation is ever likely to be forthcoming for this discrepancy.)

When Prime Minister John Curtin announced Armidale's loss to the nation on Christmas Eve - the text of which was prepared for him by Navy's Intelligence section - words were put into his mouth which the ACNB must have known were misleading. In part of his address he had stated:

"Reports show that HMAS Armidale was heavily and repeatedly attacked by enemy aircraft, including torpedo bombers. When attempts to communicate with her proved unsuccessful, air and sea searches were commenced, although it was not then certain that the ship had been lost."

The inference to be drawn here was that attempts to communicate with Armidale were made either during or immediately following the attack. Once these attempts had proved unsuccessful, the search for survivors swung into action. Of course, there could be no mention of the 36 hours it had taken to begin this search process.

The reality was quite different. With Armidale engaged in a covert operation and until (or unless) she was attacked, she would have been intent on maintaining strict radio silence. The Prime Minister was correct in stating that following Armidale's final signal at 1458/1, Pope had indeed signalled Armidale on a number of occasions over a period of 26 hours, but with Armidale presumed to be exercising radio silence, there would have been absolutely no requirement on her part to respond.

In Volume II of the RAN's official history, published in 1968, the significance of the 'attack ceased' signal was not raised. Furthermore, it was claimed of the Armidale operation:

'The subsequent inquiry paid particular attention to all aspects of the operation, and in every regard the finding of the Naval Board was favourable, and the decisions and actions of the various commanding officers fully endorsed.'

All these years on, the truth of what actually occurred after Armidale was lost has still to emerge.


Following the publication of my book in 2000 on RAN heroism in the Darwin air raid - which had also included a chapter on the loss of the Armidale - I was interviewed about her loss on 5DN, one of Adelaide's commercial radio stations. A listener rang in to say her fiancé had been one of those lost on the corvette so I asked her whether she could recall the date of his death? Instantly she replied: "8th December 1942." I realised then that her fiancé, Ordinary Seaman Harry Rudland from Adelaide, had quite possibly been one of the group who had somehow survived the sinking and who, for a time at least and thanks to the makeshift raft, had managed to maintain a precarious toe-hold on life. A young, 18-year old girl in 1942, she had never been informed of any of this. Having later been blessed with a happy, married life, but now a widow, she still retained a photograph of her former fiancé which she produced when we met. Once alone, she told me later, it was at last possible to shed some tears..............

This webpage last updated December 2015.

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